On January 17, 2013, Professor Rajata Rajatanavin, President of Mahidol University, presided over a seminar entitled Hospice and Grief Couseling for Love Ones of Terminally Illed Patients. This seminar is a preparation for the establishment of the Center for Comprehensive Care of the Eldery and Hospice. The center will be constructed on a 100 rais donated piece of land in Hua Hin. It will be the first facility of its kind in Thailand.
Thailand is fastly becoming an aging society. Despite advances in medical science, an increasing number of patients become terminally ill from chronic diseases such as cancers, kidney diseases, heart diseases, and AIDS. Many of these patients suffers from aggressive treatments that often do not respect their dignity nor improve their quality of life. A concept of Hospice and Palliative Care has therefore been introduced as an alternative for caring of these patients. Rather than focusing on prolonging life, hospice aims to optimize the peace and comfort during the final stage of life and to prepare patients and their loved ones for death with respect and dignity.
Since hospice is not yet a familiar concept in Thai society, Mahidol University invited leaders in the field to share knowledge and experience in this seminar. The panelists included Pra Paponpat Jiradhammo (abbot of Wat Khumpramong), Dr. Sriveing Pirojkul (Srinagarind Hospital, Khon Kaen University), Khun Petchlada Seangjitsiriroj (BudNet) and Marion Wilson-Gruzalski.
Pra Paponpat Jiradhammo founded Arokayasane Wat Kkhumpramong or Cancer Hospice Center. He shared the experiences of caring for 3000 – 4000 patients over the past 8 years, which involve a very hard work. The center uses herbal medicines whose effectiveness has been supported by research evidences. The center is a nonprofit organization offering free-of-charge care. So far the temple spent over 100 millions baths using donation from generous and faithful public. There is a network of social workers and volunteers from within and outside Thailand who offer their time and services to the center. The abbot added that "the hospice work must be heart-to-heart not money-to-money. Every effort must start with faith. Once the public understands the intention and sees the work, everything will fall into place."
Dr. Sriveing Pirojkul explained that Thailand has advance medical technology. However, there is a wide knowlege gap in the care of terminally ill patients. Most medical curriculum does not include training in hospice or palliative care. Most physicians and nurses do not feel competent in caring for dying patients. Few health workers truly understand the factors required for proper health care at the final stage of life. Furthermore, hospice and palliative care are not currently covered by the universal coverage scheme. She suggested that the first prioritiy is to advocate for hospice care as an essential component of the health system. Traning is crucial to ensure that the human resource for health at every level acquires proper understanding of the care for dying patients.
Khun Petchlada Seangjitsiriroj stated that volunteers are important components in hospice care. Every volunteers, be it students, nurses, general public, or monks, need to understand the importance of active listening. Most people believed that caring for the dying is about teaching and giving advices. However, it is essential to realize that different people have different needs, One must carefully listen first to understand true patient's needs, Only then can one provide the optimal care at the right timing.
Marion Wilson-Gruzalski lost two young daughters. Her son also died at the age of 15 from gas explosion. She said that death is the greatest teacher. The Buddha sees aging, sickness and death as a natural shared experiences by all being. She personally understands death to be a door to heaven. When she asked herself, what is the meaning of life, she discovered that death holds the ultimate truth. Several years later, she realized that the Buddha nature is to be here and now. This is dhamma. Working with dying patients awakens the realization that the essence of life is to live in the present moment.
Date : Jan 17, 2013